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Econ Focus First Quarter 2020

May 21, 2020

Richmond Fed’s Econ Focus Looks at A New Way to Pay for Higher Education

American students collectively owe an estimated $1.5 trillion in debt for their educations. Some institutions have been experimenting with a different way for students to fund their education: an income share agreement. Students pledge a share of their future earnings for a period of time rather than taking on debt or paying tuition up front. The latest issue of the Richmond Fed’s Econ Focus magazine looks at the experiences of schools and students with this innovation.

Also in this issue:

  • The coronavirus vs. the economy in 11 charts. A gallery of data — from the rise in unemployment claims to the drop in airline traffic, from the rise in Fed lending to the drop in business and consumer confidence — tells the story of the unprecedented territory the American economy entered during the crisis.
  • Repo markets and the Fed (and what is a repo, anyway?). The repo market is used by institutional investors — such as banks, securities broker-dealers and mutual funds — to make and receive short-term loans. It has long been recognized as an important channel for transmitting monetary policy. Recent volatility in the repo market has raised many questions about how the market has evolved since the financial crisis and what, if anything, the Fed should do.
  • When rural America got electricity. In the early 20th century, electricity revolutionized life in American cities. By the start of the 1930s, nine in 10 city dwellers had access to electricity, but only one in 10 American farms had electricity. President Franklin Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration to bring electricity to rural parts of the country by working with local cooperatives to build out the electrical grid. By the 1950s, the program had succeeded in bringing the benefits of electricity to nearly all Americans.
  • Rural population loss. Population decline is a problem for many rural communities. What do we know about the forces behind rural population trends? And what strategies can rural communities pursue to retain their residents and attract new ones?
  • Interview. Joshua Angrist of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on charter schools, technology in the classroom and the elite illusion.
  • More. Coverage of other economic issues affecting the Fifth Federal Reserve District and the nation.

For a free subscription to Econ Focus, the economics magazine of the Richmond Fed, or for copies, call (800) 322-0565 or subscribe online. The articles also are available online.


As part of our nation’s central bank, the Richmond Fed is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks working together with the Board of Governors to support a healthy economy and deliver on our mission to foster economic stability and strength. We connect with community and business leaders across the Fifth Federal Reserve District — including the Carolinas, District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and most of West Virginia — to monitor economic conditions, address issues facing our communities, and share this information with monetary and financial policymakers. We also work with banks to ensure they are operating safely and soundly, supply financial institutions with currency that’s fit for distribution, and provide a safe and efficient way to transfer funds through our nation’s payments system.

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